The Day of Ashura, which commemorates the slaying of Hussein ibn Ali, is one of the holiest days in Shiite Islam. Each year, millions of Shi’a pilgrims gather at shrines in Iraq to mourn the loss of Imam Husayn, a hero of Islam and a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
Although in recent years the holiday has been heavily disrupted by violence, this year many Iraqis have noted a dramatic decrease in violence. With the exception of a suicide attack on Iranian pilgrims in Kadhamiya, Shi’a in Iraq were able to celebrate 2009’s Ashura Festival in relative peace.
Iraqi security forces were on high alert after the pilgrims were killed in a Shi’a neighborhood across the Tigris from Adhamiya. Over 20,000 security personnel were deployed to protect the pilgrims and worshippers. The calm of this year’s celebration largely escaped the notice of the media, as most attention has been focused on the events in the Gaza strip. For more, check out Small World News’ newest project, Alive in Gaza.
In this week’s episode of Alive in Baghdad we take you back to the Day of Ashura in 2008. Hear direct from the Iraqis themselves what it means to celebrate this holy day under all the stresses of the ongoing conflict in Iraq.